Map Sports

End of an Era? Lets hope so...

Let me begin this blog by saying I am a massive fan of the Melbourne Storm and their achievements over the past decade, barring their systematic rorting of the salary cap a couple of years back. They have proven to be a professional organisation and have always managed to get the very best out of their people, whether they be players or staff. The ultimate compliment is the nature of the turn over of the assistant coaches and how heavily they are persued by other clubs as senior coaches.
One negative that has come from their dominance is the fact that in the NRL success breeds immitators and over the past decade the Melbourne Storm have pioneered the wresting techniques we see in the game today. The unfortuate by product is that the majority of coaches in the game have the adage of 'if you cant beat them, join them'. The Storms ability to control the ruck and the subsequent slowing down of the play the ball has made the game a lot slower and predictable. The Storms ability to utilise the 'out the back' play better than everyone else has also seen other clubs focus their attack solely on getting to a point of the field to run the second man play 'ad nauseum'. I thnk this has greatly impacted on peoples enjoyment of the sport as we dont see enough variation in the game anymore. Back to the wrestle and the subsequent slowing down of the play the ball has seen a seismic shift in the style of defense in the game going away from a focus on strong intitial contact to a catching style defence that is designed to allow more defenders to come into the tackle to join in the wrestle and slow the play the ball down.

I was excited in 2012 to see the Bulldogs bring a different style of offence with the ball passedthrough the middle by forwards which meant the ruck was being moved laterally without the use (and indicator) of a half back which made it difficult to defend, as it was hard to read. It also meant opposing teams big men were moved around more and if they didnt adjust they could be isolated on an edge which is where Ben Barba had a lot of success. My excitement was that if the Dogs had of been successful we would have had 15 teams over the summer designing their own version of forwards play through the middle which would have created a lot more variety and subsequently more excitement in 2013. As we know, the Storm prevailed by defending the Dogs out of the decider which more or less compounded the need for cubs to be focussed on the wrestling techniques over summer.

Looking at the final 4 and one glaring difference that presents itself as the variation to the Bulldogs 2012 finals push is the explosive running of the teams still in the competition. For the Rabbitohs we have the power of the Burgess boys who have been punching holes in teams through the 'middle third' of the field all year. For the Rooster we have Hargreaves, Moa through the middle and Cordner and Williams on edges, running with power and speed. Manly have Lawrence, Rose and Watmough doing similar damage with the running games of their big guys a lot more direct and definatley a lot more punishing then in the past.

This is where I see the end of the era for the Storms tactics of the wrestle being the focus of their defence. With Newcastle adopting the same matra as the other 3 finalists, it was glaringly obvious that the Storms, wrestle first mentality simply couldnt handle the Masons, McKinnons, Faalongo, Scott etc hard running.

Lets hope this takes hold over summer and in 2014, we have 16 teams all come out with explosive direct running games through the middle of the field. This will then require defences to revert to intial contact mentality which will hopefully supercede the wrestle. If so, we may see faster play the balls and therefore more adlib type football from halves and edges who are presented with defensive lines who dont have the same time as usual to prepare for the next assault.

I am already looking forward to 2014.